Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review - Who Am I (Cuchipinoy)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo by Rodney E. Reyes

What would happen if you could meet your creator? Would it be God, or a parent you never knew? Or perhaps you'd rather meet your creation. Who or what would that person be?

In Rodney E. Reyes' Who Am I, there are several different pairings, all of which seem to be independent stories. God (Okieriete Onadowan) comes to Earth to meet one of his creations, a flawed drug addict (Patrick Annelli) who has a higher purpose. A young woman (Ginny Moore) meets the mother (Dian Mills) who disappeared when she was just a girl. A cartoonist (Brendan Naranjo) meets the character he created (Rachel Skrod), then was forced to abandon. And a young gay man (Rodney E. Reyes) meets the part of himself he fears most (Anna Payumo). The individual scenes are woven together in a way that generally works, especially in the end when the ties that bind each story to the rest are revealed. However, it is easy to tell that Reyes has an affinity toward particular stories - that of the cartoonist and his creation, and the gay man meeting his feminine self. He focuses much of his time and emotional effort on them. The story of God and the drug addict is used to unify the play and receives particular attention because of that, but the mother/daughter story, while necessary to the resolution of the play, never seems to be as fleshed out as the others.

Reyes and co-director Mario Corrales do an adequate job, though the play drags, and ultimately feels longer than it's relatively short running time. A little tightening would help immensely. Corrales' set, which is divided into four small playing areas, is a little awkward and doesn't give the actors much room to work. Rather than keeping each story in its own small playing area, hemmed in by Jerome Hoppe's lighting, Reyes and Corrales might have had better luck mingling the spaces, allowing his actors more room to work, while hinting at the connectedness yet to be revealed.

The acting is generally good, with particular praise going to Rachel Skrod as the cartoonist's creation and Patrick Annelli as the junkie. Onaodowan's interpretation of God tends toward the inscrutable, which works well. He calm and smiling, but is he truly benign?

Reyes provides an interesting premise and crafts a fascinating play around it. Though somewhat undone by the direction and production values, Who Am I is still worth a look.

Who Am I
Written by Rodney E. Reyes
Directed by Rodney E. Reyes and Mario Corrales
Set Designer: Mario Corrales
Lighting Designer: Jerome Hoppe
Sound Designer: Eric Johnson
Scenic Painter: Vanessa Ramalho
Press: Bunch of People Press & Publicity

Featuring: Brendan Naranjo (Marv), Rachel Skrod (May), Rodney E. Reyes (Guy), Anna Payumo (Girl), Dian Mills (Mother), Ginny Moore (Daughter), Okieriete Onaodowan (God), Patrick Annelli (Human)

Gene Frankel Theatre
24 Bond Street, between Lafayette and Bowery

Wednesday-Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 3 PM and 8 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Through March 28th

For tickets visit TheaterMania; for more information visit the Who Am I website.